This might not be the best time to publish a new book. Certainly, the book launch events have been deferred indefinitely. On the other hand, as many of us find ourselves in lockdown or restricted conditions, there might be more time than usual for reading. For anyone interested in delving deeper into Malawi’s history the timing of this new book might be just right.
For me, it is a book that evokes mixed feelings. First is a sense of sadness since the prompt for the book was the death of my good friend John McCracken towards the end of 2017. Then comes a sense of satisfaction that we have produced a book that recognises the remarkable contribution John made to the study of Malawi history. Working with my co-editor Wapulumuka Mulwafu and eighteen contributing authors has been a stimulating and rewarding experience.
The result is Politics, Christianity and Society in Malawi: Essays in Honour of John McCracken. Part of John’s genius was that he identified themes that hold the key to understanding the history of Malawi in its broader perspective. The book addresses these themes, assessing the progress of historiography and setting an agenda for the further advance of historical studies.
We applied full academic rigour to the editorial process but at the same time we were always deeply aware of the emotional dimension as scholars acknowledged their debts, both academic and personal, to someone who was a mentor and inspiration across the six decades of his involvement with Malawi. The result, we feel, is rather a special book that breaks new ground in research while also expressing the distinctive affection and collegiality that Malawi seems to evoke. We hope it will appeal not only to professional historians but also to many others who have Malawi at heart.